The Perse School

Year 11 historians visit the Somme on battlefields tour

1 Nov 2017

The history department has just returned from its annual battlefields tour, where the group of 51 pupils visited the Ypres Salient and the Somme.

Students spent two days visiting some of the most important sites around the Belgian town of Ypres, or as the British soldiers called it, ‘Wipers’. There were four major battles centred on Ypres in World War One and students focused on the events of 1915, when the Germans first used poisoned gas, and 1917, when the British launched a major offensive on the Passchendaele ridge but failed to achieve a decisive breakthrough due to stiff German resistance and appalling weather.

On the first day students contrasted the cemeteries at Tyne Cot and Langemark, before entering Ypres and being offered some irresistible deals by the proprietor at the chocolate shop. The group attended the unique and poignant Last Post Ceremony, where the sounding of the ‘Last Post’ and the ‘Réveille’ by the buglers was especially poignant.  The third day was also spent on the Ypres Salient with visits to Essex Farm Cemetery, Sanctuary Wood and Hill 60 and Caterpillar Corner, which gave pupils an understanding of the scale of loss, trench warfare and the sheer size of the craters created by the mines exploded by the British in the Battle of Messines. The tour finished with a visit to Talbot House, or Toc H, in Poperinge, where tens of thousands of British soldiers found rest and some solace during the war.

During the visit to the Somme, pupils focused on the events of 1 July 1916, and visited Newfoundland Park, Lochnagar Crater and Thiepval Memorial and Museum. Pupils also walked to Mill Road Cemetery, located on the site of the much-vaunted Schwaben Redoubt, which offered superb panoramic views and provided a far greater understanding of just how formidable German defensive positions were that day.

As always, the tour party commemorated an Old Persean and this year they paid respect to Sidney Hudson Cheeseman, buried at Menin Road South Military Cemetery. Cheeseman had attended The Perse prior to the war and had emigrated to Australia in early 1914. Upon the outbreak of war, he joined the 2nd Australian Pioneers and embarked for training in Egypt. Cheeseman fought with the ANZACs in Gallipoli in 1915 and then at the Somme in 1916. Cheeseman also fought in the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917, where on 25 September 1917 he was killed by German shelling whilst in a forward post with his platoon. Cheeseman was twenty-two years of age.



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